Your children may be in danger from consuming food dyes, but they and the adults who care for them are vulnerable where artificial sweeteners are concerned.

Saccharine was one of the first artificial sweeteners. It was made from coal tar. It had a bitter aftertaste which left people wanting something more pleasant for a sweetener.

Cyclamate came along but was later banned in 1970 because the Food and Drug Administration had suspicions that it might cause cancer. (Since then they have become much less stringent in banning food additives.)

Aspartame was discovered in 1965 by a chemist who happened to taste a substance on his finger and found it to be incredibly sweet. It was later approved as a "safe" sweetener by the FDA in 1981. It is close to 200 times sweeter than table sugar or sucrose. (Did you remember that words ending in ose are sugars?)

The market name was NutraSweet .Although it had an aftertaste, tests indicated it did not cause cancer, so the public happily began consuming it with no regard to the amount consumed. A later name was also added, Equal.

When aspartame is processed, it releases methanol, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. We will explore sugar alcohols (methanol) later. But these three in combination can create problems at high intakes. (By the way, methanol is the moonshine "likker" that made some drinkers go blind.)

If the substance containing aspartame is heated, it releases even more methanol. Think soft drink trucks traveling in hot weather.

Did you recall that words ending in ol were in the alcohol family and are regularly detoxed by the liver, (as is methanol.) It damages the liver in the process. As methanol breaks down, it creates other toxins. These occur from oxidation and cause even more problems for the overloaded liver. The other chemicals are formaldehyde and formic acid.

Not only do these toxic substances damage liver cells, but they are also toxic to the brain. Formaldehyde has long been thought to cause cancer in susceptible people.

Formic acid is that stuff ants use to sting people. Would you inject that into your liver?

Here are some of the 1,000 + side effects people report from consuming aspartame: Allergies, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Alzheimer's disease, cancer, depression, headaches, heart problems, high blood pressure, lupus, memory loss, multiple sclerosis, seizures, skin problems, vision loss, coma and cancer. It can also contribute to conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, type 2 diabetes, and difficulty controlling weight because it causes cravings for sweets.

Certain soft drinks used aspartame as their sweeteners, Airplane pilots of that time were forbidden to drink it and fly as it was said to cause seizures and blackouts. Not a good idea when flying at 33,000 feet with a load of passengers,

Victoria Inness -Brown, MA, was a young mother who became concerned about the amount of soft drinks her children were consuming. (Addiction) She did a 2 1/2-year experiment that changed her children's minds about ever drinking sodas again and greatly influenced many others the same way. Her research is available online and her books are on Amazon.

In her experiment, she bought rats and began feeding them "80 milligrams of Nutrasweet" daily. Her books contain pictures of the results which included eye infections, problems with the nervous system, thinning hair, obesity, and tumors.

She used 108 rats in her work and carefully did a thoroughly documented study. Those receiving NutraSweet in their drinking water got the equal to 2/3 of an 8 ounce can of diet soda. (According to the Aspartame Information Center website, adults could drink 20 cans of 12 ounce diet soda a day.) Must be the power of suggestion.

One of her rats developed a tumor so big the animal used it as her pillow.

Some had eye infections, one had bleeding eyes, many had tumors, one had a tooth growing outside of its mouth, skin defects and skin shredding occurred, and two became obese. Golf ball size tumors grew in 67% of treated female rats. At necropsy, they were all deemed malignant.

The next generations also suffered things such as paralysis, thin hair, and neurological problems.

None of her control group had any of these symptoms or disorders.

Searle Pharmaceutical (a division of Pfizer) was the owner of the patent. Their research didn't hold up when investigated. When a company invests in a drug, there are a lot of hoops to go through, so naturally they want to use any means at their disposal to make it look "safe."

At first they were not going to promote it. However, Donald Rumsfeld, then Chairman, determined to push it. He got it approved.

Dr. John Olney who "founded the field of neuroscience called excitotoxicity" did his best to try to stop the approval of this chemical/drug.

Dr. Adrian Gross was the FDA toxicologist. He told Congress that this chemical caused brain tumors and brain cancer.

Check out Dr. Russell L. Blaylock's book "Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills."

Methanol has been called a "severe metabolic poison and narcotic." Aspartame in diet drinks may sit in a transporting truck for a number of hours warming as it goes. Heat increases the toxicity.

Have you heard of the revolving door? Retired personnel from drug companies are often hired by the feds in the organizations meant to protect us.

One way to cover up aspartame's name is to label it phenylalanine. That's an amino acid that's part of the chemical makeup of aspartame. Too much of a good thing can cause all kinds of havoc.

I have an older document that lists medications and pharmaceutical companies that use aspartame in their drugs and products. I find if very disturbing that a number of pediatric "formulations" contain it.

If a pregnant mother drinks diet sodas, she runs the risk of extreme health challenges for her baby. It may have mental slowness, birth defects .(Some rats were born with one eye.)

Chewable tablets may contain aspartame. A number of children's chewable vitamins contain it.

In 2005, Dr Morendo Soffritti, an Italian researcher, did his own study on 1800 rats. There was a "significant increase of lymphomas and leukemias in female rats."

This is the viewpoint of the Cleveland Clinic. The fact that scientific evidence suggests aspartame "may be associated with cancer," and the World Health Organization claims that aspartame is "a possible cause of cancer," does not mean "that aspartame directly causes cancer." Really?

The FDA still claims that aspartame is safe even though the World Health Organization stated that it is a "possible carcinogen." I wonder if any of them drink diet drinks.

Beware. Aspartame does not have to be listed on the label.

Here are some foods containing aspartame: Sugar-free ice cream, sodas, candy, energy bars, chewing gum, low-sugar salad dressing, and fruit juice, to name a few. Anything that claims to be sugar-free, low-calorie, or zero-sugar should be carefully checked out.

It takes work to be healthy in today's world. My job is to alert you and equip you so you can make better choices for your health and the health of your loved ones.

Nancy Pidutti, PhD, RN, Author, Hospital Chaplain.

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